I have a rule, pretty much ironclad. It’s a good thing I’m not some CEO or, I dunno, like a guy who negotiates treaties. Anyone who has to speechify for a living. It’s the Hundredth Meridian Rule. No matter what I’m doing, doesn’t matter, whenever The Tragically Hip’s At The Hundredth Meridian comes on I have to sing/recite the poem at the end. You know the one:
If I die of vanity, promise me, promise me
If they bury me some place I don't want to be
You'll dig me up and transport me, unceremoniously
Away from the swollen city breeze, garbage bag trees
Whispers of disease and the acts of enormity
And lower me slowly and sadly and properly
Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy
Imagine delivering the Canadian equivalent of the state of the union address, whatever that is, and you’re the Prime Minister, and that song comes on and you have no choice but to interrupt your speech and do that poem.
But I guess it’d be ok because all of Canada would be singing along.
You may have heard that legendary Hip frontman Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer.
Back in the 90s, The Hip were everything. It was a good time for Canadian music, at least to me and my nostalgia, but The Hip were the best and they were why we had any decent bands at all.
Any Canadians roughly my age know this already, but for you Americans and sundry other humans out there, there’s a thing called CanCon. The CRTC (our version of the FCC) has rules that radio stations and TV channels and such have to play a certain percentage of Canadian Content. CanCon. From about 1989 to 1996 or so, The Tragically Hip pretty much provided all the CanCon anybody ever needed.
New Orleans Is Sinking
Boots or Hearts
Locked in the Trunk of a Car
At The Hundredth Meridian
The list goes on and on. An unbelievable body of work, all brilliantly united by Downie’s haunting voice and inscrutable lyrics that evoke the rougher edges of being Canadian when they even made any kind of sense at all. Some of my favorite lines:
Sled dogs after dinner
Close their eyes on the howling wastes
Kurt Cobain reincarnated
Sighs and licks his face
(Don’t Wake Daddy)
Everyone's got their breaking point
With me it's spiders, with you it's me
This sounds like an eulogy, doesn’t it? It’s not. Those motherfuckers are going out on tour this summer, one last time. Fuck cancer. I’ll do my best to go- one huge oversight in my concert list is The Hip. I was always working or traveling, it seemed, when they came around. And there was always going to be next year, right?
- Nathan Waddell